Amateur Wildlife Photographer Murdered in Safari

Jax Hudur

Julie Ward

What began as a Safari tour of the wild ended in a tragic cold case in the East African nation of Kenya. The victim was a young British woman from a little town in Suffolk, the United Kingdom, who worked for a publishing house and was an amateur wildlife photographer. 28-year-old Julie Ward and her friends embarked on an African tour where she hoped she would capture the great wildebeest migration in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve. Still, only a month to go for her planned return, a tragedy struck. Julie was murdered, her body cut up and burned. Some accounts state that she was also raped.Julie went camping in the Masai Mara with an Australian friend Dr. Glen Burns. The Suzuki Jeep she was driving broke down, and her friend Dr. Glen returned to Nairobi, leaving her behind at the lavish Mara lodge.The following day Julie’s car was repaired, and she went back to her camping site to get her equipment. This was the morning of September 6th, 1988. This was the last time anyone saw her, and she was only reported missing by a friend with whom she had dinner plans.

Why did the Kenyan authorities wait for long to start the search for Julie?

The search only began after her father, Jonathan Ward, started to make inquiries. Mr. Ward, a hotelier businessman, took the first flight he could find when he learned of his daughter’s disappearance.Upon landing, Mr Ward hired a couple of airplanes and started a grid by grid search, and at first, they found the Suzuki jeep Julie was driving in a ravine, which was only a few kilometers away from her camping site. Then the unthinkable happened. In a nearby bush, Mr. Ward found his daughter’s mutilated and charred body; this was September 13th, a week after she was reported missing.Why was the Kenyan Government not searching for her? Why did it take the victim’s family to hire search and rescue planes out of their pocket to find their missing daughter?If the Government was not forthcoming with the search, what followed was a harrowing account of neglect, cover-up, and outright failure of justice.

The Cover-up

The Kenyan authorities doctored the coroner’s reports; previous claims of murder were changed to “attack by wild animals,” but here was the problem. How did wild animals cut up her body and then burn her? Indeed, a Kenyan pathologist, Dr. Adel Shaker, in a 2004 inquest, testified that his boss had doctored his first report and was coerced to sign other related documents.Mr. Ward caught on and suspected something was amiss. He proceeded to dig out a latrine near where Julie’s remains were found to search for DNA evidence left behind, such as the murder weapon. Still, Mr. Ward found that the Kenyan police threw away some key evidence whilst they have shipped some contaminated items to the UK for analysis. The sketchy actions continued as a former Kenyan assistant commissioner of police, an English man himself, Mr. David Rowe, tried to persuade Mr. Ward that lightning and hyenas were his daughter’s killers. The coroner in the 2004 inquest referred to this version of the story as “absolute nonsense.”Jonathan ward’s attempts to get justice for his daughter were met with deference. He has spent over £2 million, with over 200 visits to Kenya. He hit a brick wall at every turn. It took 12 months for the Kenyan Government to classify the case as murder. Why? One wonders. There are many unanswered questions.

There were, however, witnesses of varying degrees. Park rangers, when interviewed, were terrified. Of what, no one can tell. Why were they scared? Furthermore, a former Kenyan intelligence officer who witnessed the gang rape and subsequent murder of Julie said;“All three men repeatedly raped the British tourist in turn as she pleaded for mercy. The things that I saw will live with me till I die.”The Kenyan intelligence officer no longer lived in Kenya and was best positioned to shed light on that night. Still, he didn’t elaborate or go into the full details of Julie’s murder, despite Mr. Ward’s imploring him to come forth. We don’t know who the three men were, nor do we know what the intelligence officer meant.

Why couldn’t both the British and the Kenyan Government interview him? The MI6 was also alleged to be involved as an agent stationed in Kenya admitted his involvement in the case within days of the tragic murder and testified to have met with his Kenyan contact Mr. David Rowe despite denying the meeting took place. Why? Mr. Ward believes that there was a clear cut collusion of a cover-up. Dr. Peter Dean, Greater Suffolk Coroner at the 2004 inquest, also had similar sentiments and said, “there had been a blatant and astonishingly clumsy cover-up. The net is closing around those responsible for this awful and brutal crime”.Why were there significant discrepancies in the reports? Was the British Government colluding with the Kenyan Government to cover-up Julie’s murder? Who were they protecting?

Mr. John ward believes that his daughter was murdered by then Kenya’s former President’s son, Jonathan Moi. He said,

“Moi and his drunken pals came across Julie when she stopped to photograph the wildlife near the Serena Lodge. Moi then raped her as his cronies stopped farm manager Ibrahim Choge stepping in to stop him. Moi’s men were then ordered to dispose of her body.”

Ibrahim Choge was Moi’s brother-in-law. Quitting his job with the family, he died in a car accident ten years later. Ibrahim’s father, a former assistant minister in the Kenyan Government, also blames Moi for his son’s death and the police for covering up.Jonathan Moi was a successful cross-country race driver who won numerous prizes. He had a fall out with his father due to an internal dispute. President Moi divorced his wife, and Jonathan Moi chose to stay with his mother. Some unverified reports state that Moi Junior was prone to violence and was a hothead. Quite the untouchable thanks to his father’s presidency. Jonathan denied ever being in the vicinity where Julie was murdered. Still, later reports suggest that he was indeed in the area prompting the Kenyan authorities to reopen the case decades later.This has been going on for three decades now. Jonathan Moi died of pancreatic cancer in 2019, and several months later, his father, former President Moi, also passed.

Still chasing the truth

Whatever secrets they had and their alleged roles in Julie’s murder, they took it to their graves, but one man is still chasing for the truth. Jonathan Ward believes that his daughter’s murder solely rests on the Moi’, that investigating officials were taking orders from the above to stall. Successive Kenyan governments also failed Julie in her father’s pursuit for the truth in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. Several of the park rangers who were tried for Julie’s murder were also later acquitted. Witnesses were not forthcoming. They are still not forthcoming despite Moi and his son being dead.Jonathan Ward, an older man himself, has made his lifelong mission to find her killers and bring them to justice. He said,

“They (the British) chose to support Moi rather than me. They supported a Kenyan cover-up to maintain diplomatic relations. They hoped it would die down, and I’d go away — but we haven’t let it. People tried to sweep it under the carpet; you get quite bloody-minded. It goes on and on, it never stops.”

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I write about history, politics and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or newsworthy. "No special talents. Only passionately curious." Albert Einstein


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